Why I chose Kellogg for a career in tech
How does Kellogg prepare its graduates to thrive in the tech industry? We recently sat down with startup founder and tech industry executive Mark Obonna Fleming ’16 MBA to talk about how his business school experience launched his career that’s taken him around the world.
After Kellogg, Obonna Fleming moved to China to work at Alibaba’s Ant Financial Group, where he invested in fintech and e-commerce startups in emerging markets. While living in China and working in Mandarin, a language he picked up along the way, Mark also worked at Alibaba Group’s Tmall, an e-commerce marketplace where he helped more than 50 U.S. companies enter the China market at every step: from supply chain, to government regulations, to marketing, to technology builds.
Most recently, with fellow alumnus James Tong ’16 MBA, he founded Creator Nova, a tech platform that launches content creator–led businesses.
Why I chose Kellogg for my MBA
Any top-tier MBA program would have provided a broad foundation of business knowledge and skills, from finance and marketing to operations and strategy. And I was always going to target a program that offered specialized courses and electives that would provide more in-depth knowledge and expertise in areas like product development and data analysis.
But Kellogg also has a unique advantage that cannot be ignored by those seeking to become technology executives.
One generation ago, technology companies faced immense risk of not being able to build their products in the first place. At that time, learning to manage that risk would have been my first priority. But the world has evolved a lot since then. We have learned to deliver high-complexity technical products iteratively and mitigate product development risk. Now, the largest existential problem facing tech companies is the risk that their venture does not find a market that is willing to pay for it. Or even worse, that it does not meet the needs of its market.
Luckily for me, Kellogg’s well-rounded curriculum helped me to think laterally and understand customers enough to reach product-market fit, to build what they actually buy, and to think creatively to cost effectively reach customers at scale. In a world where the most scarce resource is attention, customer acquisition becomes a strategic imperative for companies. My ability to reach, engage and motivate action in both my customers and the customers of the companies I serve is my superpower, granted by my Kellogg education.
Why choose Kellogg for tech?
Throughout my two years at Kellogg, I enjoyed an incredible breadth of experiences:
- I dug into real-life projects through experiential learning opportunities like PE/VC-entrepreneur labs, case studies and consulting projects.
- I spent a quarter with a middle-market private equity firm and another quarter with a venture capital firm that led to a long-term commitment.
- I co-chaired the Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference and had many illustrious alumni come back to talk about their industry expertise.
- I attended impact investing summits and went to South by Southwest.
- My summer internship at Goldman Sachs solidified my financial acumen, something that is sorely needed in the tech space.
These opportunities provided me valuable real-world experience where I applied what I learned in the Kellogg classroom.
Some of my most valuable Kellogg courses were:
- Marketing Strategy with Professor Tim Calkins
- Tech Marketing & Tech Product Management with Professor Mohanbir Sawhney
- Entrepreneurial Finance with Professor Scott Baker
Throughout my time here, I felt that Kellogg offered unique access to opportunities in tech and VC, and invested in pathways to careers in tech. I gained the superpower of deeply understanding product-market fit, and I was deeply tapped into a network of peers who became VPs at top-tier tech companies shockingly quickly after graduation.
Why start an MBA now?
1) The opportunity cost is less.
For many, the largest cost of a full-time MBA program is the loss of income from work. But in a recession, the probability to find meaningful, rewarding work is compromised. The likelihood of salary progression is reduced, and the probability of stable income is also compromised. In other words, during a recession, an applicant’s opportunity cost is lower, so it makes much more sense to take that time to invest in yourself
2) You will learn more.
Tough economic conditions create a climate of uncertainty and a willingness to change, which forces innovation and the emergence of new business models (for example, when Airbnb innovated on lodging during the Great Recession). As these monumental shifts happen, you’ll be learning about them in real-time in the Kellogg classroom.
3) You will re-emerge into a world ready to hire.
Recessions generally last 18 months so by the time you’ll be out of a two-year program, top tier tech companies are likely to be back into growth mode. And they’ll need strong leaders, like you, to help them get there.
A supportive student and alumni community
Lastly, Kellogg also provides access to a network of alumni and industry experts who can provide mentorship, guidance and support as tech industry leaders navigate the challenges of growing and managing their businesses. During school, build your network by attending networking events and join student organizations to expand your network and build relationships that can help you succeed in your career.
I believe in the virtuous cycle of giving back, and now as an alumnus, I have come back to speak at classes as a guest lecturer. Not only has this enabled me to give back to the school community, but it has also opened the doors to many other speaking opportunities in the tech world.
Continuing the virtuous cycle of giving back, I am happy to talk to anyone coming from tech that is thinking about an MBA at Kellogg. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter where my handle is @MarkObonna.
Learn more about our MBA Programs to find the fit that’s right for you.
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